If you told Joe Cucharale, Sr., of east Utica, last week, that the New York State Attorney General would be admiring his backyard Wednesdsay afternoon, he might not have believed you. But, Attorney General Letitia James was, indeed, in Utica Wednesday, to announce 'Zombie 2.0'; a second round of funding from her office, to help communities improve or remove the abandoned, blighted homes.
"Improve data collection, create databases for zombie homes, partner with land banks and community land trust, to build affordable housing and to repurpose vacant properties, to create zombie coordinators and task forces," said James, from a podium on the sidewalk on Hammond Ave.
Right next door to Cucharale's well-kept property is one such zombie home.
"When they got the prices that it would cost, they said, 'I'm outta here.' They took a truck, packed up about three or four weeks later and left and since then it's been vacant which is now about seven years," said Cucharale. "Mice in there, squirrels up in the attic, mice throughout the house."
But on Wednesday, funds from the Attorney General's Office were being used to rehab the long-vacant home next door to Cucharale. The contractor, The Oneida Square Project, uses people with barriers to employment, such as former incarceration and disabilities.
Forty-eight communities will split $9 million in grants between $50,000 and $500,000 each, depending on their size and the severity of the problem. Utica is getting $200,000.
"It was very frustrating to us, as any mayor would know, not having the tools in the tool box to provide that quality of life," said Mayor Palmieri.
Rome's mayor says the money from the first round is making a difference in her community.
"We did a lot of work with codes enforcement, buidling the database, we have a good idea now where these homes are located, who they're owned by," said Mayor Izzo.